©2008 Thomas F. Madden; (P)2008 Recorded Books
I really didn't know that much about the Roman Empire before listening to this lecture. It provided a fairly good survey from the end of the Republic to the start of the Byzantine Empire.
It was an engaging listen, with lots of interesting events. My only real complaint is that occasionally it gets bogged down in the names and people rather than concentrating on the big picture. But still the overall events still shine through.
I'd recommend this lecture to other people.
Professor Maddens' lectures tend to be concise, to the point and enjoyable, it's certainly a lot easier than reading or listening to Decline and Fall of Roman Empire by Edward Gibbons. Having said that, because of the time constraint, he has had to skip a lot of details. I'd suggest trying Cyril Robinson's work to supplement this course.
This book is really like attending a class lecture--replete with slips and the normal repetitions one hears in lectures. I'm not sure it's a great start if you know nothing about Roman history. But as a refresher course or an overview if you plan to read more, it's pretty good. There are a couple of annoying pronunciations (Pompey gets pronounced as if it were the city Pompeii). They are good lectures--interesting and easy to listen to.
A published novelist and technical writer, who lives in Northern California with a cranky but loveable parrot and lots of books.
Although the topic of this lecture series is the Decline and Fall, the lectures actually cover the entire period of the Roman Empire, from the end of the Republic, to the end of the succeeding Empire. Professor Madden's lecture style is smooth and fairly fast-paced, and he has an interesting theory about why the Roman Empire eventually collapsed. I'm a Roman history buff, and I really enjoyed listening to these lectures. Definitely well-worth my time!
Professor Madden is well verse in the subject matter that he is presenting. The lectures follow a logical order that is detailed with facts often not covered in other lecture series. The history of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is impressive and easy to follow. Professor Madden makes the history come alive to the listener. I highly recommend this series of lectures on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for the beginner or the expert on the subject. I will certainly be buying another one of Professor Madden's Lecture audio books.
The lectures start out reviewing some ideas that have been suggested over the years for the fall of Rome: maybe it was the decadence or the rise of Christianity or the Barbarians... A lot of these are rejected on the argument that they apply equally well to the Eastern Empire, which lasted till 1453, as to the Western, which fell in 476. I find this argument less than fully convincing, but I was willing to accept it provisionally, awaiting the author's preferred thesis to be given at the end. Except he never does give one.
Instead the book is basically a litany of emperors and generals. The sort of thing that perhaps you're required to know for the test if you're studying to be a card-carrying historian, but which is of limited interest or use to the rest of us. The lectures start (following the part where he throws out and rejects various theories) with Julius Caeser and the Julio-Caludians, and if you know at least the outlines of that part of the story, as many of us do, things start to get pretty boring. But then he passes through that bunch and there's 4-5 more hours of so-and-so succeeded so-and-so, and you realize that hey, this never ending parade of emperors actually continued for like 400 years and was pretty well recorded. You also realize there's a reason no one's ever made an "I, Pupienus". Seriously, there's dozens of these guys you've never heard of and don't care about.
And Madden is just not a great lecturer. He's not terrible, but he seems to sigh a lot, which made me feel like he was disappointed in me as a listener. More likely, he was bored with his own story, because it's boring.
The unfulfilled promise of this program is to get at the deep causes of the fall of Rome. Madden's basic story is that the fundamental failure in Rome was a constitutional one, failing to specify the order of succession, which led perpetual rivalries between claimants to the throne. Perhaps, but given his own dismissal of stories that work just as well in the east as west, he never really explains why this explanation should pass that test. I'd also like to hear what other historians say on this topic; Madden mentions Gibbons, but doesn't say much about him, or anyone else's analysis. Basically, I kept waiting for the analysis lecture to come, and it simply doesn't.
It has a much broader focus, but if you're interested in this topic in general, let me suggest Ian Morris' recent book "Why the West Rules for Now". That one may leave you not knowing the Latin names of all the trees--err, emperors--but at least it acknowledges the forest.
Good writing has ... a balance and a rhythm. You can feel that much better when it's read aloud. --Laura Hillenbrand, author of Unbroken
Unconnected, disorganized vignettes, truncated and riddled with errors and misspeaks. The reviewer who mentioned the lack of any "big picture" is entirely correct. Modern Scholar should pull this one.
It surely doesn't go into details about everything but that's a good thing. Good narration. Makes you feel you are in a classroom listening to a great teacher.
Very superficial coverage of the development of the Roman Empire from the late Republic to 476 CE. Lots of glossing over of major developments (e.g., the end of the first triumvirate is described as 'Crassus got killed in a battle'). Lots of minor mistakes, like Pompey pronounced "Pompeii", Aetius called "German" with apparently a minor role in the late empire, etc. Should be $10 rather than $35.
Non Fiction Reader
This reminds me of many boring college lectures I sat through. The presentation is halting and many times it seems like the professor is searching for simple words he can not recall. Lots of pauses and sentence completions that make no sense, e.g. "...there were men and women and things like that." Admittedly it's a survey, but the important emperors are glossed over as if they didn't exist. It is hard to tell what/who was iimportant. There also seems to be an editorial bias against Christianity which he treats like a cult and a figment of imagination. (Aside from early Romans the professor appears to give its appeal little credence and stuggles to explain why it "caught on"). Personally I find it disappointing when authors perform their own works. There are so many professionals who do it, well, professionally.
"Another Madden Hit"
No printed version; these are lectures.
N/A. These are lecture about history.
Relaxed, informal, funny in a deadpan type of manner.
Not necessarily, it covers over 600 years of history.
This must be the 5th or 6th lecture series from Professor Madden, and I loved each one. He is knowledgeable, tongue-in-cheek funny and makes history come alive.
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